PRINCESS THEATRE - Raising the Curtain: October 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011


I introduced my son Corey Mashburn, Harriman High School's Guidance Counselor, to Megan Anderson, the new Princess Theatre Manager, Friday.  They seemed to hit it off right away and began discussing Corey's memories of the Princess, what the Princess wants to offer area schools, and generally what the Princess will mean to our children that want a career in the arts, media, and communication.
But, all I could think about how much Roane County needs young people like this!  While listening to their youthful ideas from these two "go-getters", I was thinking "how do we get young people involved".  We need their youth, their ideas, their determination, and new vision of the future so much!

Megan and Corey talked about getting together with the other area counselors, and interested teachers, to brainstorm ideas for classes and hands-on involvement.  They think that the high schools could offer "dual enrollment" credit courses in partnership with Roane State, which would be wonderful for everyone involved.  These courses would be in the catalog under THEATRE.
That's it, we need to find ways to get them together and let them think out of the box with their young minds.  I'm afraid we may have become to set in our ways to see past the past and into the future!

The Princess Dream is to make the Princess a unique educational tool that will prepare students who are interested in stage, sound, film, television, radio...all of the "media/theatre arts".  The Princess, and the Channel 15 studio, will be a hands-on tool students can use as they do class study.

Did you know that Harriman doesn't have a drama class or club?  I found that so sad.  The Princess will be able to stir up interest again in the arts in all our schools.  Not only could those interested students act in a play, they could also learn to do the stage preparation, the direction, the producing, the lighting, the sound, and how to record the performances on film for broadcast.  Man, how I could have gone for something like that when I was in high school!

My suggestion to any parent or student reading this post is GO to your school's guidance counselor, or any teacher, and tell them you are interested in pursuing your interest in the arts!  And how much your school offering such classes would mean to you.

Dual credit courses could be available to any student scoring a 19 on the ACT test.  The PLAN test is given during a students sophomore year, as a preliminary to the real ACT given the junior year.  Therefore, a student could be potentially be eligible for the "dual enrollment" courses for the last three years of high school!

The English portion of the test is probably the portion in which a 19 will be required.  It's seems to be the best fit anyway.

Even if a student fails to make a 19 in that area of the tests, they could still pay Roane State for the courses.  But, if the grade is made, then it's all free!

Going to a community 2-year college program next year may even become more possible for more Roane County students.  A new program call tnAchieves will provide up to $3,000 dollars annually for tuition to students who meet the criteria and maintain a 2.0 GPA.  This is on top of any Lottery Scholarship and/or PAL grant monies!

All this simply means, that you may be able to go to Roane State FREE!  So, look into it today!

Oh yes, everyone needs to see how they can get involved at the Princess too!  If you would like to volunteer, contact Wilma Mullins right away!

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Several months ago, James Ryan's "Rocky Top Sign & Neon" company took on the task of refurbishing the Princess lights.  They were in pretty bad shape, having gotten wet many times from the leaky roof, but today they hang proudly from the Princess auditorium ceiling!

The lights began a slow transformation, back to near perfect condition.  First everything had to be removed from the fixtures, then primered, and repainted.  The electrical parts had to be completely replaced, which included some purple neon fixtures, which Ryan's company made.  This neon will give the auditorium ceiling a special glow that will reflect off the painted ceiling.

"Rocky Top's" work continues outside on the marquee frame too.  They expect to be attaching the actual marquee pieces very soon.

With the ceiling complete, "Superior Interiors" continues painting the rest of the Princess, and let me tell you, it's looking great!  And wait until you see the proscenium!  The old fir wood is so soft to the touch, and it really soaked up the paint that was applied.  It looks fantastic and any actor would be proud to stand between them.

I won't be showing you anymore wide-angle shots of the auditorium for now.  I want the completed job to be a total surprise to you as you walk in the Princess, and for some, it will be for the first time.  You'll love it!

However, suffice it to say that the work continues.  The new bathrooms have been tiled to match the original pattern and color of the old restrooms on the mezzanine level.

The elevator shaft work progresses with steel rising to the balcony level.

And, of special interest to me is the work being done to bring back the shine of the terrazzo floor in the lobby and at the entrance to the Princess outside.  Even us old timers have never seen it shining with its original luster!

So, it can't be long until you get the call to come she her!

Friday, October 14, 2011


Last evening, at Harriman Steaks And Diner, Roane Street in Harriman, the city put on a special celebration in thanks to all that help make the annual "Crusin' Harriman" better than the previous year.  This group puts out a special effort and make family sacrifices during the 2nd Saturday of April through August each spring and summer.

The group enjoyed being together to relax, eat, and fellowship without having to plan an upcoming event.  However, their efforts will begin all over again come next March!

"Doc" and Wilma Mullins were presented with a commendation plaque for their combined coordination work over the years since the event began in 2003.  Other members, besides Doc and Wilma, of the original committee in attendance Thursday evening were: Beverly Clough, Bobby and Lois Wilder, Jim Thornton, Sandy and Tom Hooks, and Gary Baker.

People don't realize what it takes to put on an event.  It takes lots of planning, and lots of volunteers working behind the scenes and at the event to make it happen.  There are never enough volunteers to make each person's job/s easier, so many have to pull multiple duties in order for the event to be successful.

There is lots of room for more volunteers, so it you would like to be involved in next year's event, call "Doc" and Wilma Mullins (865-717-2818) right now...before you forget it! 

It's never too early to get ready for April 14, 2012!

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Tim Plemons, Jaycen Roberts, Grey Mead, and Jerry Roberts (yes, they are related), of Superior Interiors were hired to reproduce the Princess' "Art Deco" color scheme.  I stopped their work Wednesday to take this quick photo.  I apologize to them for this photo being slightly blurry, but it is very difficult to get "auto focus" to work in the low light conditions of the Princess.  I'll try and get a better shot soon, and replace this one.  However, I wanted to get them and their work documented for history on the Princess blog as soon as possible.
Tim Plemons, Jaycen Roberts, Grey Mead, and Jerry Roberts
The team has been doing an outstanding job of recreating the original paint scheme.  They are constantly referring to Sparkman's engineering drawings, and looking at an old post card to match the colors and design as closely as possible.

"Art deco" may be strange to most people, especially those not old enough to remember the inside of the Princess Theater prior to the 70's, but what you will see on the ceiling, the walls, and the front of the balcony is what you would have seen if you walked into the Princess on or after the 1939 reopening of the theater after the devastating fire.  The Princess was intended, and will be, an "art deco" temple to the arts!

Our thanks to Tim Plemons and crew for their dedicated, and often hard, work.  It's not easy painting on your back, or balancing on one foot from a scaffolding brace!  Walking into the auditorium now makes people who are old enough to remember, like me, feel so good.  You can almost sense that the Princess is smiling herself!  She's coming back to life!

Outside, the marquee is now ready to support and light up the new marquee, which is expected within the next week or so.  You can see all the right curves on the fade of the support structures, which will match the shapes of the new banner.

No matter where you go within the Princess complex, you will see some type of working going on.  The process of cleaning up has began too.  The scaffolding should come down this Friday, so the last coat and touch-up paint should then finish up the auditorium.  Then, another milestone will begin, and that's the placement of the new seats!

This week the main air conditioning units were successfully tested, which may not seem that important on these cooler fall days, but next summer when you are being entertained inside the Princess, you'll be happy it all works!

Again, let me caution you not to ever take our Princess for granted again.  We didn't fully appreciate her until we no longer had her, so we need to remember that good things sometime slip from our grasp.  We need to work hard in supporting the activities there, and to treat her like she was our own home.

I'm thankful for having had the privilege of watching the Princess come to life on a daily basis.  The only drawback from this is almost bursting inside from the anticipation of seeing your face as you again walk into the Princess.  I can't wait for us to again enjoy being together at the Princess.  So, when you see me with my camera pointed at you...give me a big smile!

Saturday, October 1, 2011


What a wonderful historical event I was privileged to witness Wednesday - James "Dub" Harmon, manager of the Princess from 1951 until 1964, met Megan Anderson, the fifth and newest Princess manager, for the first time!

I think they hit it off immediately, and the first meeting ended with a warm "welcome/thank you" hug!  This can only mean there will be more such meetings.  Meetings where Megan will soak up all the Princess and Harriman history she can.

Dub began by telling us what the Princess meant to Harriman and the surrounding area.  People used to fill the fifteen-foot-wide sidewalk (before the four-lane), all the way back to where Chase Drug is now, waiting to get into the Princess.  This is evident is clearly shown in the 1939 grand opening film clip!

One 4th of July years ago, Dub related, they ran 3900 people through the Princess between 10AM and 11:30PM!  At that time there was a city park where the American Legion is today, and people came there to celebrate, and then would come to the Princess.

There was always something going on at one of the theaters in town.  The Princess used to have a special "Academy Award" promotion, where patrons attempted to match up the actors to the awards, and the closest won a living room suite!

Dub began working at the Princess in '41 or '42, time gets away from him a lot today, so he couldn't be exact, and Crescent thought he did such a great job they wanted to make him manager.  However, it wasn't until 1951 that he became old enough to be "bonded", which was a requirement of the manager position.

As Dub remembers it, when the Webbo closed, O. L. Pritchett came to the Princess to replace outgoing manager L. W. Bevel.  That was about the same time Mr. Harmon began working there, at about the age of 15 or 16.

About the only thing that did not burn when the Princess was destroyed in 1938, was the marquee.  He remembers they cut the "SS" off the end of the Princess, and moved it down to where the Roxy was located, which was where Hall's 5 & 10 used to be located.  It was not in a separate building, as some have speculated on Facebook.  So, the Roxy/Prince building still stands in Harriman today.

The Roxy/Prince had only about 200 seats, and if you are old enough, you remember how narrow Hall's was!

One Halloween, the Roxy sold so many tickets to the scary movie, that they had to run a second movie up the street at the Webbo.

I asked Dub if he remembers a theater standing where the Princess is today and he said no.  I asked what about the "Gay"?  He thought a long time and then said that the Gay Theater was located on Clinton Street, somewhere on the block that H. G. Furniture is on, but on the opposite side of the block facing Clinton.  I followed up by asking if the Gay was ever located where the Princess was built.  He says the Gay may have moved to Roane Street, but isn't sure about where, or if that happened at all. Way before his time!

I plan on asking Lewis Spivey about this history next week.  Megan also wants to meet this great Harriman historian, so I'll tag along!

So, when Cecil Johnson, the last Princess manager, got back from Korea in the early 50's, his brother-in-law, Dub Harmon, gave him a job as projectionist at the Princess.  Cecil had experience at this job from his younger days at the Roxy.  However, it wasn't long before Dub brought Cecil downstairs and began teaching him the managerial job.

Sometime in '64, Mr. Harmon and Junior Ballard began managing H. G. Furniture Company, which they later bought.  Dub still works there today!

Cecil became the fourth Princess manager.  Dub kept working in the theater business, except it was at night, after his day job, at the Midtown Drive-In.  By then Martin Theaters had bought Crescent, and all sixty some theaters.  So, Dub and Cecil had new bosses!

Cecil remained the manager until 1999, when he finally closed the theater, after having leased the business from Martin Theaters for a couple of years.

Folks, again I see in Megan Anderson someone that can and will carry the flame forward.  She hung on Dub's every word, as he answered her tough questions.  You can see the pride building in her for our Princess and Harriman.  She has already made many contacts for support, for historical answers, and for thoughts on what the Princess should bring back to Harriman.

We gave her a t-shirt, after she admired the one I was wearing the first time we met.  It was kind of a "we believe in you" gift, and she beamed when it was given to her.

Please get behind her and support her in her highs and lows folks, and let's keep the interest in this project and revitalization going.  She will really mean it when she wears her "turning the lights on" t-shirt around campus and town.  She wants to succeed in her new job and she wants the Princess to succeed!

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